I spoke about this at class last week and realized I need to put it here!
Food dispensing toys are a very important piece of the mental stimulation puzzle for growing puppies and active dogs. Dogs are highly intelligent creatures and remarkably good problem solvers if taught and allowed to think early on.
One of my favorite ways to do begin this is by giving them food dispensing toys. Rious’ favorites are regular Kong toys, which he gets in his crate any time I leave, and a Kong Wobbler, which he gets his lunch out of every day. I have a great picture of him using the Wobbler on my phone and if I can figure out how I will add it here!
A Wobbler is like an old fashioned “Weeble” toy. It looks like a large plastic Kong with a hole about half way up. The base is weighted with sand so it stands back up if knocked over. The base unscrews from the top and can be filled with kibble and small treats.
The first time I gave it to Rious he seemed slightly afraid of it. I showed him a few times that I could knock it over and food fell out. Every time I walked by I would hit it and walk away to let him explore. He whined at it a few times, wanting the kibble but being unsure what to do to get it. But within minutes he was a little mad man batting it around!
His next challenge will be the “food puzzle” I have where he will need to slide little doors to find the hidden food!
But you don’t have to go crazy with food toys. Regular Kongs will suffice, especially if you stuff them well and freeze them! Kongs can be stuffed with mixtures using yogurt, plain pumpkin (not the pie mix with sugars and spices!), kibble, Cheerios, wet dog food, bananas, you name it!
I start with peanut butter or cream cheese smeared on the outside to entice the dog to lick it off. Don’t make a Kong experience too challenging right from the start or you may frustrate them right from the start and they will just give up. Make it gradually more challenging and you will have a Kong master in no time!
I can not over stress the importance of these toys. Most dogs are pretty darn bored. They gulp their meals down in 30 seconds and then have 12 hours to kill until their next exciting event happens. BORING!!! These toys take time for them to eat their meals and mentally and physically tire them out so they will rest a bit after eating. Win win!
An additional bonus it that it will help to slow down a dog who bolts his food hopefully reducing his risk of deadly bloat, also known as gastric torsion.
I love the look on my dogs faces when I prep their Kongs knowing that it makes the leaving routine far less stressful on them and gives them something to do. Creating a predictable routine for a dog can be very beneficial. For some separation anxiety dogs this can work to your advantage or it can backfire. They are a case by case basis. For most dogs I feel it is a very good way to prevent it in the first place.
Now I will try to figure out how to post that picture!